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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  3,485 ratings  ·  568 reviews
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self offers a bold new perspective on the experience of being young and African-American or mixed-race in modern-day America.

In each of her stories, Danielle Evans explores the non-white American experience with honesty, wisdom, and humor. They are striking in their emotional immediacy, based in a world where inequality is a reality, but

Hardcover, 232 pages
Published September 23rd 2010 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was excited to read this after coming across an AV Club Review calling it “a remarkable short-story collection in a good year for short-story collections.” But what made me especially eager to read it was something the reviewer said that didn’t sit right with me: "The biggest issue with Suffocate is that nearly every story features a similar protagonist. Evans writes this protagonist—a young African-American or mixed-race woman who’s trapped between her past and a more promising future—extreme ...more
The first two short stories in this collection literally had me making noises on my couch. Throughout Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans shares the pains, intimacies, and moments of (dis)connection that make adolescence and young adulthood so rife with feeling. In the first story, “Virgins,” I literally laughed so hard at the dialogue, before experiencing a quiet yet profound sadness at the ways in which the young female narrator comes to understand the many degrees of dange ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book of the year. It was such a satisfying, well-written collection with these awesome stories I keep wanting to read over and over again.
Nov 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
i found this book exceptional. do you remember when jhumpa lahiri debuted with Interpreter of Maladies and everyone went WHOA? Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is that good, though i'll be surprised if everyone goes WHOA, because, let's face it, the readership for young African American female writers is different from the readership for young Asian American female writers. and by different i don't only mean different, but i mean smaller, something i invite all readers of this teensy ickl ...more
Brown Girl Reading
I usually have trouble loving short story collections but this one really won me over. Evans has constructed each story on large than life characters that we care about immediately. I've never read short stories like that before. The stories are longer than the usual 5-7 pages and maybe that's why I had the chance to really get into each story. The themes vary from race, to women issues to family and so forth. This is definitely 4,5 stars. I'm docking it a half star because I just didn't want it ...more
Anna Luce
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4 ½ stars

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is a fantastic collection of short stories. Having loved Evans' latest release, The Office of Historical Corrections, I had high hopes for this first collection and it did not disappoint. Each short story delivers, there isn't one 'weak' or boring story. Although they explore similar themes and subjects they offer different perspectives and or they reach contrasting conclusions. Evans' combines heart-render
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you, like me, have been picking books up for weeks, starting them & realizing about 30 pages that you do not care whatsoever about what is going on (Constant Gardener I am looking in your direction), perhaps you should give this book a try. It is scrumptious and excellent and has renewed my faith in the printed word. Thank you, Danielle Evans. Now hurry up and write some more stuff, please.
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Suffocate is a collection of short stories about the Black experience in America. Every story dealt with a sensitive and taboo subject (especially within the African American community). Virginity, abortion, and post traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the subjects Suffocate discusses.

Some of the stories (Snakes, Harvest, Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go), are spectacular. As with most short stories, you are left with a sense of longing. You're left wanting more. You NEED
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, invis-backpack
Nothing goes as we plan; storms. volcanoes, locusts, viruses. What makes a normal life when you add to all that being Black in the USA?
Danielle Evans’ stories are all about the catastrophic danger of living a life - subject to parents, subject to children, subject to the daily aggressions of racism - and still trying to decide for oneself instead of accepting the foregone conclusion of one's story. They are about the expectations of young Black women, of friendships forged in wartime (high schoo
Rachel León
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of these stories deserve 5 solid stars, others were in the 3/3.5 range so I'm giving it 4 stars. I was completely blown away by the first couple of stories and then there was a lull of good stories, but not with the intensity of the ones at the beginning--or the end. The last couple stories were amazing as well. Overall, it's a great collection and I'm in love with the way Danielle Evans writes. ...more
Read By RodKelly
Short stories are interesting to me...I prefer novels, and I think that the general consensus is that in the world of fiction, short stories are not the first things people gravitate towards...

That being said, it takes a fabulous collection like this to make a reader understand what constitutes a great short story: unbelievably strong and fully realized characters placed in scenarios that test them as humans, but different from a novel in that the moment of the dramatic shift, the climactic reve
Man... the longing, the melancholy, the impossible other reality, the sense of anger, despair, the battle with your own fool self against everything else... Man, was it unbearable at time.
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book has a collection of 8 short stories. These are the following: "Virgins," "Snakes," "Harvest," "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go," "The King of a Vast Empire," "Jellyfish," "Wherever You Go, There You Are," and "Robert E. Lee is Dead."

If I have to pick my favorite short story I think I am going to have to go with "Robert E. Lee is Dead." That's because the main protagonist of that story reminded me of my school days as the "smart one" in my high school. It was tricky for
Ron Charles
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I hope Danielle Evans is a very nice person because that might be her only defense against other writers' seething envy. At 26, this D.C.-area author has already graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, earned praise from Salman Rushdie and Richard Russo, and appeared in two (two!) volumes of "Best American Short Stories." Now comes the publication of her first collection, "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self," eight quietly devastating stories that validate the hype. No, she's not the Ame ...more
Page Passion
"I didn't feel anymore like being myself was something for which I owed the world an apology."

That brilliant quote, ladies and gentleman, is from Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Specifically from my favorite story, Robert E. Lee is dead. I related to this story the most, because I too felt ostracized for being the smart black girl and quiet. All of the stories were great and really made you think about life, the human condition and how our view on life greatly affects how we live.

At fi
Cherise Wolas
In these stories about the liminal years between childhood and becoming a so-called "grown-up," there is not much hindsight, but rather an immediacy as we follow girls and young women who are intelligent, gutsy, and Black. Racism and micro-aggressions are threaded through most of the stories, but they claim a universality as well - the pitfalls of coming of age in 21st century America. Not all of the stories pack a punch, but those that do, have a wallop to them. ...more
Danielle Evans is like a breath of fresh air in the current offerings of short fiction. Her stories are in the here and now, told by your friends and neighbors whose voices are rarely heard. Evans has an exquisite talent at evoking the true essence of a character with just a few swift strokes. A few of the later stories (Jellyfish, Wherever You Go) tend to bog down in an overwritten explanation of an extremely grafted family tree, reading more like a diary entry than prose, but her best stories ...more
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
First, I hate short stories. Had I known when I picked this book up that it was a collection of short stories, I never would have done so. I read the second story thinking that it was the second chapter and struggled to find some kind of common thread linking it to the first "chapter". Never happened. Naturally. However, having said all this, I found that I couldn't put this book down.

I chose this book randomly because the title spoke to me. As a Parisian-dwelling-native-of-Virginia (you can tak
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it
What can one say about a collection of short stories, each one of them delicious enough to hope that they never end? I almost feel bad for only giving this book 3.5 stars (I gave the extra .5 on Visual Bookshelf, but GoodReads and Shelfari won't allow for that...I wonder why). The only reason it didn't receive a perfect score of 5? I didn't want any of the stories to end so soon, if that makes any sense. These stories should be novels!

I especially loved "Virgins", the story of two teen girls in
Mitch Loflin
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If this was just the second story, “Snakes,” and then 200 pages of Wingdings, I would still give this five stars. But fortunately the other seven stories are also pretty much perfect. Danielle Evans could write copy for Vons coupons and I’d treasure them, because somehow even those would be clear and bold and perceptive and sensitive and structurally elegant. Easily my favorite book I’ve read in months and maybe my favorite story collection ever (I think I liked this even more than The Office of ...more
Brilliantly observed moments from mundane life form searing stories. It's a short book, but it was hard to read straight through; I had to keep pausing to let things percolate. "Snakes" was the stand-out for me, but I found every story powerful except perhaps "Jellyfish," which never quite seemed to find its conclusion. ...more
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I would love to read a novel based on any of these eight stories, because the author has such a singular, strong voice. It most often takes the form of a smart, African-American girl in her late teens, who is struggling to fit in even though she knows she doesn’t quite belong where she is. Two of the stories in particular jump out at me: “Harvest”, which is about a girl and her white roommate in their first year of college in New York City, where they become friends because they both don’t have ...more
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
To say that this is a collection of short stories about "young and African-American or mixedrace in modern day America", as the dust cover does, is to seriously underestimate and limit the scope of this work. This is a book about individuality, about growing up, about families, about disappointment, about being different, about being left behind, about leaving others behind -- in short, this is a book about life, applicable to every race, creed and color.

The author has an amazing skill in portra
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, genrex
4.5 really. Danielle Evans pushed me through my current sad pattern with short fiction collections. Usually I start out loving them and then I'm so exhausted keeping up with all of the new characters and all the new empathy that I'm ready to give up half way through.

Not so here. Evans writes about (mostly) young black women with brains and agency and fully realized characters. Everyone felt fascinating and familiar from paragraph one.

Seriously, she is really talented. I'll definitely be reading
Keli R
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you read a book like this, you have more respect than you have “review.” Danielle Evans crafts stories in ways you wouldn’t believe, in ways that make it hard to just turn the page, and not reflect. I especially enjoyed that the topics of these stories are things that most people don’t talk about often, much less make movies after. The thing I felt which needed more development was the motif of neglectful parents. Each chapter was a story with its own shock value, but two of my faves are “S ...more
Nov 14, 2010 rated it liked it
certainly well worth reading. if we had 1/2 star options, I'd give it a 3 1/2. The second story, Snakes is overwhelmingly the most interesting story of the lot with a highly unexpected and original ending. the other stories are decent, but didn't grab me in the same way, maybe it's a guy thing. I did find some of the endings disturbingly abrupt, feeling that there really should be more there, so perhaps for me the stories weren't as self-contained as I would have prefered. ...more
Wilhelmina Jenkins
This is simply a superb collection of short stories.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars (rounded down)

A brilliant collection of eight short stories on coming of age in 21st-century America. “My Youth as Real Live Tragic Mulatta,” sums it up nicely. “Snakes” the story of 9 year old Tara who gets sent to her white grandmother in Tallahassee hit unexpectedly close to home. What is most appealing about Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is Evans’s ability to weave race into her stories without having it be the entire focus of characters’ lives.
Jenny Shank
Nov 09, 2010 rated it really liked it

Book review: 'Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self' by Danielle Evans

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, October 3, 2010

By JENNY SHANK / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
Jenny Shank's first novel, The Ringer, will be published in March. She is the books editor of NewWest.Net.

Danielle Evans' debut story collection examines the lives of young black people in contemporary America and does so with a ringing authenticity in eight moving, funny and insightfu
Jan Priddy
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think I ordered this book because Roxane Gay said it was her favorite read of 2010. It might have been mine that year because in any year this is a great first book.

These are stories about relationships, stupid choices, and ambition. Many of the characters are in their teens and Evans has a good memory for what teenagers are like, what they want and fear most. She was young when she wrote these stories, but she got her characters right. Some of her POV characters are girls or women looking ba
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Danielle Evans is the author of the short-story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, winner of the PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Hurston-Wright Award, and the Paterson prize and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 selection. Her work has appeared in magazines including The Paris Review, A Public Space, American Short Fiction, Callaloo, The Sewanee Review, and Phoebe, a ...more

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